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That Mom

When my son’s kindergarten teacher said to me ‘I think its because he’s gifted’ that’s all I heard. I was in car line and honestly wanted nothing more than to peel out to get home to tell my husband – she thinks our child is GIFTED!!

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Little nutIt wasn’t until years later, reflecting back, that I realized she had just given me a laundry list of bad behaviors – something we had been dealing with all year, that preceded the words ‘I think its because he’s gifted’. It would take me a long time to put these puzzle pieces together.

The next few weeks another mother, finding out that my son had been labelled gifted and being much further along on her journey than I, started chatting me up in the corridors while we waited for our kids to get out of school. “CHALLENGE my child” she would complain, often loudly enough that I felt embarrassed. “Why doesn’t anyone provide any services for these kids?” she would lament in front of others. She was vocal. She was in the faces of the teachers, and the administrators, she didn’t seem to mind what other people thought when she said her child was gifted.

I was concerned about how I looked to others, I didn’t want people to think I was bragging. I didn’t want to stand out and be noticed and be vocal and loud. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ mom.

Instead I quietly watched as my son made it through kindergarten (whew). Then in first grade, every day was a ‘how was his behavior today?’ day. In second grade I found myself trying to explain to his teacher why he was refusing to write anything on his math tests – “just give him harder work” I pleaded (oh, I’m starting to sound like ‘that’ mom).

“We can’t do that. They have to work within the second grade curriculum. Besides, he won’t prove that he knows how to do this work, I can’t give him harder work yet.”

He was moved to a ‘gifted classroom’. The rest of second grade went by…we made it (whew). Third grade was the same old story. Every email, every time my phone rang, my stomach sank with dread. When I was faced with ‘yes, he is being called names, yes, he is being excluded and yes, he is being laughed at but, really, he brings it on himself’ I tried to work with the teacher and with my son to see what we needed to change. When I met with administrators and I could see their contempt for my child dripping from every word that came out of their lips, I tried to make them like me – maybe if they liked me and knew that I was trying really hard they wouldn’t be so hard on him.

When I saw my precocious, energetic, confident 8 year old start to turn pale, have crying spells for no reason, start to retreat into himself and not want to talk to anyone, I was terrified. When I saw that same child come home from school with a fury of energy and “build” his own library in his room, complete with library cards for every member of our family I was elated! I came to find out that the librarian at the school had offered to let him spend some time there every day – reading and shelving books. He was on cloud nine. But then his teacher insisted that the only way he was going to be allowed to take advantage of this offer was if his behavior was 100% perfect – not one complaint. And of course, he never got to go. Ever. Again. That’ll teach ’em.

ER quoteWhat no one seemed to understand was that he needed something different. He is wired differently. He wasn’t able to do what they needed him to do because they weren’t giving him what he so desperately needed. We ended up pulling him out of school.

Man I wish I could have been ‘that’ mom – her kid is still in school. She is doing something right. She is so much braver than I was.

So if I could offer up one trick that I wish I known from the beginning, one tip that could have saved us all so much heartache or one tool that I know every parent of any child who is different –  any parent of any child at all, needs to have in their arsenal, I would say to be brave. Be more brave than you ever thought possible. Be the brave that you imagine you would be if you had to go up against 400 pound black bear to protect your child. Be the brave you are when you know, in the deepest pit of your soul, that you could lift a 16 wheeler and toss it the length of a football field if it meant that your child would have the opportunity to live the life that you wanted for them. Don’t worry about what other people think. Be bold and courageous and brave. Be that mom for your child.

This article is written as part of the May 2014 Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop.

Click on the graphic below for more Tips, Tricks and Tools for Gifted/2E Kids.

May 2014 GHFBH image

Is It Time To Think About Regular School?

Regular schoolIt was a Wednesday, and, because we had drama classes and ice skating lessons, my son was the only one of my three children that had done any school work AT ALL that week. And he had only done 60 minutes of math.

But Wednesday we had the whole day. No errands to run, no activities, no co-op, nothing on the schedule. So I was sure we would get lots done.

By 2:00, only one child had done anything; 30 minutes of math.

At 3:00, I sat down at the kitchen table where my son was eating a pear (he called it lunch). It felt like I had failed in every area – I couldn’t even get a proper lunch going. I tried not to cry and I tried not to make it sound like a punishment when I said, “maybe it’s time to think about regular school”.

The protests started like sirens –  this wasn’t what I was looking for at all. I needed to curl up in a ball, cover my head and pretend to live in a magical kingdom where laundry didn’t exist and all children have nannies. But I had caused this upset I owed it to them to at least listen to their pleas of why they needed to continue to homeschool. Part of me wanted them to be right (like the toenail on my baby toe part of me) and the rest of me, right at that moment, wanted them to want to go back to regular school.

I explained my concerns. I didn’t want to have to fight, coerce, cajole, beg, plead and bribe them to get stuff done. I wanted (needed) them to be invested in this process too. I couldn’t have them wandering around not learning anything.

“Mom, we haven’t not been learning anything (I cringed, not only at the double negative, but also at the confirmation that the irony of its use drove home). I learned about golden ratios this week”. I stared at him blankly, this wasn’t helping to convince me as I wasn’t sure what the heck that was.

My daughter said “I’m doing double digit division”. They continued,

My classroom2

“We learned all about The Grand Canyon because we went there and then you let us make a diorama and a power point presentation.”  (I let you?) “I wrote an essay for that project mom! And I learned about the water cycle because I asked you what H2O meant and you told me to look it up and I did.” (You did?)

“And I learned about Leonardo Da Vinci from that library book, and we learned about fossils, and we spotted that Mourning Dove today and we found out what it was called from our Feederwatch project.”

I got out the puzzle with the US states on it at this point. Thinking to myself, but your cousin knows where all of the states are on a map.

We quietly began working on the puzzle. My daughter said to her brother “do you remember the European Starling we saw the other day?”

All was quiet for a bit and then my daughter said “I just learned that Hollywood is right next to Arizona. That’s cool.”

My son looked up, “See mom, we’re learning all the time, even when you aren’t teaching us.”

I guess you are.

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This post is part of a blog hop on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Click here to see more posts like this one!

Are You Qualified to Teach Your Child at Home?

Are you qualified picRecently, I heard a teacher compare homeschooling your children with choosing not to take them to the doctor and (her words) “doctoring them” at home. Her point was of course that in order to teach one must have teaching credentials. I love teachers and have many teacher friends. I truly believe teaching today has to be one of the toughest and important jobs there is. NOT everyone could teach a room of first graders how to read – that is what teachers are trained to do.  But can anyone with the means and the will teach their own child academics? Can anyone can teach their own child at home?

Currently, the laws in most states say that you can. Many states only require that you state your intention to homeschool, some require some test scores and/or a professional evaluation of student progress, but only a tiny few require any kind of qualification of parents. So for most Americans, if you have the means and the will, you can legally homeschool your children.

The means and the will.

What does it take to satisfy the ‘means’ of this equation?

There is a commonly held belief out there suggesting that you need to have a two parent intact family where only one parent works. However, there is a ton of information out there showing that this simply isn’t the case (see Pamela Price’s book How to Work and Homeschool). Single parents who work while homeschooling? It can be done. There are also a ton of free or very cheap resources out there for homeschoolers, so satisfying the financial means does not require a six figure income.

But what about the intellectual means?

I don’t think there are a ton of people out there who would agree with our teacher friend from the beginning of this post. First of all, the comparison between teaching and medicine is ludicrous.

And secondly, as I mentioned before, teacher training would be a necessity in a classroom setting, but at home with your own children? No, I don’t think most people would say that there is a need for that.

But should we hold homeschooling parents to a certain standard before allowing them to school their own children at home? Can someone with, say, a GED, teach advanced chemistry? Can a high school dropout teach foreign languages? Can someone without a college degree teach advanced high school mathematics? Can someone with a college degree in English Literature teach advanced chemistry? The list is endless and clearly parents can’t be all things to all subjects.

The internet has become such an amazing resource for homeschoolers that they literally can find anything they need with the click of a mouse. And you can purchase curriculum in nearly every subject. There are free online courses in many subjects and public online high schools abound. So would teaching an advanced subject be problematic for a homeschool parent who doesn’t understand it themselves? I don’t think it would for a parent who places a high value on such study, assuming they have the ability to seek out and utilize the tools necessary.

But what if one is not motivated enough, or does not place a high enough value on a high school education to get one themselves? Are they going to impart to their children the view that education is not important? What about the parent who does not have the capacity to seek out the information they need to teach, or the ability to teach it?

I guess I would argue that the parent who does not place a high value on education is going to affect their children regardless of whether they send them to school or not. And anyone who does not have the capacity to seek out the information needed to homeschool would be unlikely to undertake homeschooling in the first place.

So are you qualified to teach your child at home? I believe that you are, but I would love to hear what others have to say.

Gifted is Not Always a Gift

Too great not to share…

unnecessarywisdom

When we hear the word “gifted” we usually think of someone who is extremely intelligent, has remarkable talents or an unusually high IQ. Most people think of being gifted as, well, a gift. It certainly is, to some extent. You learn new information quickly and easily. You pick up new skills with ease. You excel in several, if not most, areas of your life. But being gifted is incredibly difficult and comes with a variety of issues and complications that are rarely observed or addressed. It’s not always a gift.

I come from a family of extremely intelligent and talented people going back several generations. They accomplished world-renowned feats in science, art and education. These talents have been passed down for several generations now. My biological mother graduated medical school and college simultaneously. I was considered gifted and earned multiple awards and scholarships, graduating from high school early. Now I…

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The Glorification of Busy

“I have to pick up one child at school at 3:10 and be across town – a 20 minute drive, with another and have her ready in her leotard for Ballet for 3:30, then I have to race back and get the third one to a scout meeting for 4:00 and then back to the dance studio to pick up the second one for 4:15 and then get over to the other side of town for the first child’s football practice that goes from 5 until 7. At some point I have to leave there and grab my second child from scouts at 5:30. After 7:00 I still have to get dinner, homework and baths done!”

She says this as though these horrifying conditions have been imposed upon her by some higher power that would mandate that, unless her and her children are running ragged all day every day, she is not fulfilling her motherly duties. And she is looking at me as though I should be impressed. I’m not. I feel sorry for her and her kids.

But what’s really going on here? Do some parents really feel that their children need all that? Or is this some kind of strange competition for busiest parent of the year? Are these schedule run-downs that seem to happen any time you ask “what have you been up to?” their way of excusing themselves from the PTA? Or that play date you talked about six weeks ago? Or just making sure you know they aren’t lying around eating bonbons all day?

I try really hard not to judge other people’s parenting. But I have to ask, what is the benefit of having such a packed schedule?

What does this teach our children? Do they hear that, for time to be well spent it must be spent doing some formal activity? What would they do with themselves if they had some lengthy span of unscheduled time?

What values are we imparting during this mad dash? How are we cherishing our time…or theirs? Are we suggesting that we, as parents, have very little to teach them ourselves so we have to rush out at every opportunity to pay someone else to teach them something? Or even that every usable minute should be used to learn something?

I used to think it was an over-indulgence of the child’s requests for extra curricular activities, but having heard parents complain about how their children detest piano lessons or how hard it is to get them to pay attention for the entire dance class, I don’t think it is. I’ve also heard parents comment on how well their child ‘held up’ given the grueling nature of their schedule, or what a ‘trooper’ they were for having endured it. I think it holds some kind of value to the parent, not the child. A status symbol, or the ability to partake in a discussion about nearly any child related activity from experience. Maybe its a justification of what they ‘do’ as a parent, a strange sort of accounting for their position as mom or dad. A way to feel that not working outside of the home is justified, or a way to feel that working outside the home doesn’t negatively affect their children’s lives.

Whatever it is, I don’t share their admiration of their own impossible schedule and their insane quest to fulfill it.

I treasure family dinner times, together, at the table. I adore when my kids want to show me some crazy game they invented or some contraption (like the “exercise machine” they recently invented…a box, tied to a string, tied to one of their ceiling fans. Turn the fan on and it chases you and you run…voila, exercise machine!). I crave the days when they beg me to read just one more chapter of Magic Tree House and I’m not completely exhausted and I kind of want to know what happens next too, so we do. I love to do something we hadn’t planned on doing, or call some friends over on the spur of the moment for game night.

That’s not to say that we don’t do activities, we do. We have skating and scouts and karate and gymnastics, and next semester we’ll have a handful of things that take us from here to there. But we choose carefully and treat our time with the same care and thoughtfulness that we give to anything that we place a high value on in our lives. And when we do get to skating or scouts or gymnastics, I want them to enjoy it, not endure it. I want them to be ready, rested, well-fed and clear minded. We only get a finite number of seconds in this life, and I would rather cherish every one of them, then be so busy scheduling them all that they race by in a blur.

Staying Home and Being Social

Homeschooling’s #1 critic is socialization. Socialization has literally kicked the crap out of homeschooling in the mainstream psyche for the past hundred years or so. But homeschooling has a new ally and socialization did not see this one coming.

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I’m a blogger, I send emails, I text and, occasionally, I even talk on the phone. Before I’ve even had my second cup of coffee in the morning I have contacted, spoken to, informed, and conversed with dozens of people, maybe more. I work out of my home, and my husband does too. Mind you, no one has ever called us unsocialized.

Now that my kids are homeschooling it comes up all the time. What about socialization? Aren’t you worried they won’t be socialized?

There are some people who would argue that socialization has never been a problem for homeschoolers. That may be true. I went through the ‘regular’ school system so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that my kids are homeschooled and they have more opportunity to socialize now than they did in school.

That’s a pretty bold statement and I’m sure some people are doubtful. But hear me out.

At school they had to sit in a room full of people that they weren’t allow to talk to for a good deal of the time. They got 15 minutes to eat lunch (eat fast kiddos) and then 30 minutes to play. They were also given another 15 or 20 minutes for recess (if that wasn’t taken away as a punishment). These were definitely social times (except for that 15 minutes that they had to eat – how much socializing can you do when you need to scarf down a sandwich and a piece of fruit in 15 minutes?). Then, of course there were times throughout the day that they were able to work on projects with other kids and class discussion, that sort of thing. But the rest of the time they spent lining up to go to another classroom or listening to instruction/lectures and being shushed if they were caught chatting with their friends.

Now they spend about 3 or 4 hours a day actually buckling down and doing school work (much of which we access online). When we head out during the day to hang out with other homeschoolers (we can find tons of groups online with the click of a mouse), we are gone for 2 or 3 hours – and all they do is socialize. We do that at least 2 or 3 times a week. They are in more activities than we had time for when they were in regular school and we still have time to sit down and eat dinner together every night. Add to that the fact that they can Skype with their friends and family, that they connect on Minecraft servers and that they still hang out with kids who live near us when those kids aren’t in school and I really think we’ve got ‘regular’ school beat on a quantitative level. But when I think about the quality of their interactions now I am even more pleased with what we are doing.

My kids have a much more varied social life than they used to. The homeschool groups we meet with have tons of members and when the kids find other kids they connect with we make more of an effort to join in the activities that those kids are joining. Because they have more time for activities they are meeting more kids from other schools and other districts. Because of technology they are connecting with people in different states and different countries. Because we have more time in general, they have chosen to keep in touch with kids they met on our recent travels. They are being exposed to all kinds of people from all walks of life. They have met kids who homeschool because of medical issues, or because of developmental disabilities. They have met people who live totally different lives than they do and it has changed the way they see the world.

So yes, we are staying home and being very social. And they are getting an education in life to boot.

Should you Homeschool?

Many parents might be struggling right now with a really big decision. Maybe last year was a tough year, or maybe it was a mediocre year, or maybe your child has some special needs that the school isn’t meeting, or maybe your child would like to dedicate more time to a passion in music  or art or sport, or maybe you would like to travel more – there are a ton of reasons why a parent might consider homeschooling their child. But when it comes down to it, how do you know if you can or should?

I would put money on it, if everyone were allowed to take a trial run at homeschooling (maybe take the month of October off and give it a whirl), our schools would be pretty deserted.

And I believe its safe to say that anyone who wanted to do it could absolutely do it successfully.

I was going to homeschool for a few months during a transition time, and to me that was a crazy decision. But I figured I could do anything for a short while. The big surprise came when I LOVED IT.

Suddenly doors opened for us that I hadn’t even considered. We could travel. We could do all kinds of cool activities during the week. There was so much more time in a day! We were closer as a family (I thought we would be ready to strangle each other after the second week). We never had to worry about having time to eat a meal at the table together in a day. We were all less stressed.

So I have decided to keep on homeschooling. I don’t know if I’ll do it for another year or until they all graduate from high school, but this year we are going to homeschool.

If you are undecided, I would urge you to try it. Give it a year or until Christmas or even Halloween – that’s not such a big commitment, Its the only way you are going to know for sure.

If you do decide to give it a try or if you already did, I would love to hear from you. How did it turn out? Are there more people out there like me who were surprised by what homeschooling really looks like?

For a more in depth look at the pros and cons of homeschooling and help with making the big decision, check out my book Modern Homeschooling!

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Above the Curve

Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Robert Frost were all home schooled? So was Agatha Christie. In fact, it is common for children of above average intellect to not fit into regular schools. Part of the reason that these kids struggle in regular schools is that there is a significant amount of resistance to allocating funding for high achieving kids or to facilitating things like acceleration and grade skipping. People who advocate for gifted or high potential kids are often called elitist and politicians shy away from showing their support to a small segment of the population if it may alienate a larger group. It would be wonderful if our school systems could accommodate every child at every level and every child’s needs could be met. But I suppose that is a tall order for a system strapped for cash. Thank goodness we have homeschooling as an option!

Considering homeschooling but don’t know if its for you? My new book Modern Homeschooling has helped many families figure out what to do!

The face of homeschooling is changing

We’ve all seen them. Oddball homeschooling families. The kids are awkward, mom wears grandma jeans, dad is surly…sound familiar? Well its changing. The new face of the homeschooling family is the over achieving student, the soccer mom, the wealthy family who likes to travel, the family who wants to spend more time together or to free up time to explore other interests more intensely. The new face of homeschooling encompasses everyone – and it could be you.

Homeschooling has been a fringe activity in the past. But changes in technology and access to amazing resources are enticing families from all walks of life and all corners of the globe to reconsider. If this is you, I have written a book about Modern Homeschooling and you can purchase it on Amazon here.

The internet and computers have made school at home options literally point and click. My kids (in 3rd and 4th grade) can do an entire day of school on their own – without my help. (Don’t laugh homeschooling moms, I said “can” whether they actually ever will is to be seen!) The academic side of homeschooling has really been made unbelievably easy for anyone to do.  And whether your kids are breezing through school or really struggling to get through it, when you bring it home and they have 1 on 1 learning, they can come leaps and bounds in just a few weeks.

The choices homeschooling families now have are endless. Make your own curriculum, get one free off the internet, unschool them, sign them up for an online school or an online private school – the sky is literally the limit. We have our kids enrolled in an online public school in Arizona. They get boxes and boxes of supplies and books shipped to them each year – text books, work books, science equipment, art supplies, instruments – you name it. They each have a teacher and a class and have the option of joining into virtual lectures/discussions in every subject they are taking. There are counselors, clubs, field trips, after school play dates and much much more. Even though we find ourselves only spending about four hours a day on schoolwork, we don’t have time to take advantage of everything that their school has to offer. And that’s because we are busy doing things like creating our own server, learning to cook, taking swim team to a competitive level, ice skating 4 times a week, and just spending a lot of quality family time together. And I can’t think of anything better than that.

Modern Homeschooling book available on Amazon.com

Modern Homeschooling book available on Amazon.com

From amazing travel and adventure to early entrance to university, has homeschooling finally evolved enough for you to take it seriously?

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